N-word This, N-word that
On a scale of 1–5, how uncomfortable does the N-word make you?
How you answer might say a lot about yourself.
I’d place myself at a 2.2. Not exactly halfway uncomfortable, but not completely okay with saying it to my grandma.
When you’re mixed, the N-word is a confusing term. Can I say it?
Should I say it?
One of my first articles is about how biracial/multiracial people should view their racial identity— not as 25 percent this race and 75 percent that race, but rather, fully each race because they each coexist in your person.
I consider myself fully white and fully black, so how should I navigate a term that was historically used to oppress people who even had one drop of black in them?
I don’t think I ever got a “talk” about the N-word. It was something I picked up as I grew up in the blackest county in Maryland. 62 percent! Also the wealthiest majority black county, but who’s counting?
I also went to a majority black Christian school in Prince George’s County. So I heard the n-word fairly often. Like so many people, I kind of thought it was just a word that meant “friend.” Look at how it’s used in music and among the black community— the term has been completely reclaimed. So to learn that the n-word was a word that was synonymous with not just blackness, but laziness, stupidity, and inferiority— that’s high key heart breaking.
Reclaimed terms are visible in many marginalized communities. Take the f-slur for the LGBTQIA community for example, which, as someone who isn’t a member of that community, I’ve never used it. I don’t need to. It isn’t my experience. I’ve never had someone call me that term derogatorily, and I never will because it doesn't describe me. So why would I think it’s okay use it in conversation?
The N-word with the hard -er, like many slurs, has been used violently. It’s been used while people were murdered. While they were pushed off of trains and buses. While being run out of their neighborhoods.
It’s my opinion that groups that have the potential to receive that violence are therefore more than able to reclaim that terminology and use it for healing and community building. As someone who is a member of the black community, except in extreme cases, I usually opt out of using the term. But I don’t fault other black people for using it because heck they deserve to!
My wonderful fiancé, if you haven’t noticed, is....white!! And guess what his favorite genre of music is? Uh-oh, you guessed it, rap music! The n-word is present in rap music, and yet, my very white fiancé (heretofore referred to as MVWF) somehow manages to not say the n-word in every song he sings along with! I know— crazy! Because according to so many white rap fans, that’s LITERALLY impossible!
Leave it to MVWF to make the impossible possible.
It isn’t that hard to not say a word. And nobody is saying that you CAN’T say that word, we’re asking why you’d want to use it in the first place. Really read into what people mean when they say “white people cant say the n-word.”
It means that black people were exclusively called this word as a tool of oppression. That’s a sad history to have. That history has caused wealth disparities, generational trauma, and institutionalized oppression. When you say that word, you’re communicating to others that you have that shared history of oppression. So if you don’t have that history, if you don’t want to have that experience... why would you want to communicate that?
It is complete and utter privilege to be angry that you will be frowned upon for using a word that your ancestors created to oppress others.
Something I think about a lot is how, waaaaaay in the future, if Carter and I have kids, that kid is more than likely going to be passing. They’re black, but they might not look that way. How am I going to explain the N-word to that kid?
The N-word is a word that is used within the black community as a way of reclaiming a term that was historically used to oppress them.
You’ll have to make the choice for yourself whether or not to use the n-word. If you think that you have inherited those oppressions, then you have also inherited the right to say that word. If not, don’t look down on others who have.